PR: How to build a relationship with journalists

  1. People chatting in the dusky glow of the sun setting

    TetKofi Contributor, JournoLink Free Member

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    At JournoLink we deal with media and journalists’ requests all the time. I’m adding my experience in broadcast journalism and newspaper publishing to this, to give you these five steps to building your relationship with the media and journalists.

    Step one: Adjust your attitude

    Journalists aren’t aliens from planet Zog. They are fully-signed-up members of the human race just like everyone else so there is no need to be nervous around them.

    It’s just that all journalists on some level want to inform and or change the world around them, and to do that they have to be read, viewed and shared. No journalist ever got into the trade to become unseen, unheard of, or unread. To achieve this, they have to inform, educate and often entertain to achieve their goals.

    They are as diverse as any group, so variety is the spice of their lives and they can’t have too much of it. What this crucially means is that no journalist can do their job without you, the news subject or news source, so please adjust your attitude and be confident; journalists and the media need you. This attitude change in you will lead to the next steps.

    Change your attitude and you will see that the last thing a journalist wants or needs is a sales pitch in your press release. It educates and entertains no one. But, new insights others have not thought of, do. By offering variety and insight, you’re giving a journalist just what they need, something that is relevant that no one else ever thought of.  Think of your press release in the way you think of content on your blog.

    Only, in this case, it's content for a journalist.

    Step two: Be interested in your journalists

    To build a relationship with anyone, nothing is more important than showing an interest in who they are and what they do. Knowing a journalist’s correctly spelled name, title, role and function in their branch of the media shows you’re interested.

    Finding out what they write about, who they quote, and their position on issues in your industry is just a matter of reading their output. It means you will send relevant material to the right media, and even if not used, you’d have signalled you’re switched on and one to come back to another time.

    Don’t ever let a journalist ask of you: “Why did you send me this?”; because they will remember it and may bin the next batch that comes along. Remember all journalists are time poor and working to deadlines. You ease their lives when you send relevant material at the right time. People always remember how you made them feel.

    Step three: Know their realities

    Imagine trying to make a relationship with someone without knowing the physical realities of their lives.

    When do they get to work and when do they leave? When is a good time to call or email, and when is their deadline day on which any interruption is an irritation? Remember everyone is different. The lifestyle and schedules of bloggers differ often from those in office based publishing houses.  

    It’s perfectly okay to ask questions about their schedule, spelling of their name, title, phone numbers, best way to contact them (email, tweet, tweet direct message, phonecall and when). Journalists sometimes have domestic commitments; some are parents and find it difficult to take on too many evening events. 

    Knowing the realities means you can appropriately invite them to engagements, whether it's a daytime coffee or a launch in the evening. What about things like feature schedules? Are they doing special issues on any subject in the year? 

    Ask and they will tell you because they can’t do those stories without you. Journalists love it when they think you’ve made the effort to find out not only their interests but also their schedules. You become someone they can work with.

    Step four: Publicise them

    As I've mentioned above, no journalist is in the job to be invisible. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and any social media platform they use. Read their output and share when appropriate.

    Comment and offer insights on what they write, compliment what you genuinely find good. Sycophancy is as hateful to most journalists as unconstructive criticism. By sharing their work, you’re helping them fulfil their mission.

    Step five: Your big idea

    It’s much easier to get into a relationship if you have a big idea that overarches all your news. One food industry client, The Grocery Accelerator, say that they “prepare Davids in a world of Goliaths”. This big idea is graphic, paints pictures in journalists’ minds and can be drawn out and expressed in a variety of story angles.

    They can talk about their work in coaching and mentoring, funding, niche targeting their startups; and each strand of news not only fleshes out their big idea but builds on the one before. For a journalist, this is like hitting a mother lode. Stories galore, all fresh but following a theme. Think what your big idea is and use it to build your relationship with media.

    When you know what your journalists need, feel confident about approaching them because you’re relevant, have a big idea you can explore and expand with them, and engage with them by reading and appropriately sharing their work, the relationship grows and grows.

    What's more, they will talk about you and other journalists may well call as well. Journalists hate to miss what is hot and trending.

    Let’s have a conversation about relationships with media. I look forward to questions and comments on this blog post. Make sure you're signed up for or logged into UKBF to comment! 

  2. Ricky Rowe

    Ricky Rowe UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    Thanks for the insight! This can certainly be a tricky field to manage at times.
    Posted: Feb 2, 2016 By: Ricky Rowe Member since: Feb 2, 2016
    Tet Kofi likes this.
  3. ZakTomlinson

    ZakTomlinson UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    @Tet Kofi Step 2 alone can be just about enough when you reach out. Great advice! I had an interesting experience with a gigantic spreadsheet of just names & emails/phones. It led to a 3 day long googling and reading forwarded emails.
    Posted: Feb 4, 2016 By: ZakTomlinson Member since: Apr 11, 2014
    Tet Kofi likes this.
  4. Tet Kofi

    Tet Kofi UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    @Ricky Rowe ~ It certainly can, but like any relationship it takes a bit of time to build up. Once built the rewards, like any relationship continue for ages even when the other party moves to other titles or media. You have that contact, and they have you!
    Posted: Feb 5, 2016 By: Tet Kofi Member since: Jan 12, 2016
  5. Tet Kofi

    Tet Kofi UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    @ZakTomlinson ~ Ive always taken the view that quality beats quantity. Youre right the spreadsheet scenario is coffee intensive and a bit daunting. We dont need every journalist we need the ones that matter to us so its great to ID who the core or candidate media list is and get to work on them. They will be relatively few in number and it wont feel like one is pitching the whole world. Crucially you'll get to know those pretty well. When you hit the ground with them, you'll be surprised how many journalists pick you up from their reportage, and the circle grows kind of organically too.
    Posted: Feb 5, 2016 By: Tet Kofi Member since: Jan 12, 2016
  6. Tet Kofi

    Tet Kofi UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    @Sir Vic Stickler ~ Here is the eternal conundrum. How our perspectives as businesses may differ from that of journalists. The journalist is trying to inform the public, you as a business are also trying to inform the public. what the two parties have in common is one thing: what the public wants or needs to hear about. When you approach a journalist and talk about what the public wants, you are both on the same side more or less. You are far more likely to get their interest (and empathy) when you signal that you are not talking just about what is of interest to you, but also what the public would be interested in knowing. Insights, great stories that illustrate those insights, trends you've seen emerging, yawning gaps in the market , new developments that disrupt the sector...all are great news ideas. You get coverage by relating these insights to your business, products, services and activities.
    Posted: Feb 5, 2016 By: Tet Kofi Member since: Jan 12, 2016